Each week we webcast Lord's Day Sabbath School at 10a, morning public worship at 11a, and p.m. singing and sermon at 2:30p (sermon at 3:30); and the Weds. Prayer Meeting at 6:30p

Saturday, May 29, 2021

2021.05.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Joel 1:13–20

Read Joel 1:13–20

Questions from the Scripture text: Who are commanded to do what two things in Joel 1:13a? What does verse 13b call them? And command them to do? What does verse 13c command, for how long, in what attire; and what does verse 13d now call them? What other service isn’t currently an option, and why (verse 13e–f)? What are they commanded to do in Joel 1:14a? And to call what in verse 14b? Whom are they to gather in verse 14c? And whom else in verse 14d? And whom else does this imply (Joel 1:2-3)? Where are they to go (Joel 1:14e), and what are they to do there (verse 14f)? Where can we find the content of what they are to cry out (Joel 1:15-18)? Over what, first (verse 15a–b)? Why, what about this day (verse 15c)? What shows that this is a day of judgment (Joel 1:16a)? And why is this cutting off of food significant (verse 16b)? What happens when they plant (Joel 1:17a)? What are falling apart from being empty (verse 17b)? And what are breaking down from being empty (verse 17c)? Why are they empty (verse 17d)? Who else is mourning (Joel 1:18a)? Who else is troubled (verse 18b), and why (verse 18c)? Who else is suffering (verse 18d)? Who is the first to heed the prophet’s message (Joel 1:19a)? What has he seen that confirms the commanded cryings out (verse 19b–c, cf. Joel 1:17; and, Joel 1:20, cf. Joel 1:18)? 

How were they to worship, when the material means of that worship had been cut off (Joel 1:13f)? Maybe the priests would just get some time off? Or come up with creative substitutes? Absolutely not!

Rather than rejoicing before God, they were to lead in a worship of lamentation (Joel 1:13a), wailing (verse 13b), prostration in mourning clothes (verse 13c), and crying out. (Joel 1:14f). The whole nation was to participate in this unusual service at the temple (verse 14, cf. Joel 1:2-3).

The plant life (Joel 1:17) and animal life (Joel 1:18) had been brought to a state of humiliation. Now the people were to take the hint (Joel 1:16a) and be humiliated before God as well (verse 16b). 

Yahweh is for His own holiness. Yahweh is for His own worship. And therefore judgment must begin at the household of God (cf. 1 Peter 4:17–18). 

The prophet sets us an example. He might have let himself off the hook, since he is the appointed messenger for others. We are tempted to let ourselves off the hook, thinking about others instead whom we think really need to hear the message that we see in Scripture reading or hear in Scripture preaching. 

But Joel takes it to heart for himself, and switches to the first person singular in Joel 1:19-20, crying out in the manner that has been commanded. He notes the devastation of the plant life (verse 19b–c) and animal life (Joel 1:20), and adds to them his own voice, as he cries out to Yahweh, using the covenant name (Joel 1:19a). 

We should know ourselves as the chief of sinners; so that in repentance we will be the chief of mourners; and however God has commanded it to be done, be the chief of worshipers. Let each of us see to it that we individually and personally take God’s Word to heart.

In what ways have you been trifling with God? What sin have you tolerated? What obedience neglected or offered half-heartedly? What will come of you, if judgment begins with you?

Suggested songs: ARP130 “LORD, from the Depths” or TPH130A “LORD, from the Depths”

Friday, May 28, 2021

2021.05.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Philippians 3:4–7

Read Philippians 3:4–7

Questions from the Scripture text: What might the apostle have if someone else did (Philippians 3:4)? How would the apostle’s compare? What five possible sources of confidence does he mention in Philippians 3:5? And what two in Philippians 3:6? How much zeal had he had? What quality of the righteousness did he have according to what they thought they could get from the law? What had he thought he was getting from all these things (Philippians 3:7)? But what did he come to count them as? In order that their apparent gain might be replaced by Whom?

No one can have confidence in the flesh. We already saw that in Philippians 3:1-3: confidence in the flesh is the recipe for turning your being set apart into being a dog (Philippians 3:2a), turning your obedience into evildoing (verse 2b), and turning your covenant sign into something superficial and grotesque (verse 2c). 

But if someone could have had confidence in the flesh, it would have been the apostle: an eight-dayer, native Israelite, descendant from a patriarch, given a Hebrew-culture upbringing, of the most devout religious group, zealous enough for action when the most zealous were merely outraged, and with scrupulous keeping of the regulations of the law.

It’s an exhausting list to think about, and even more difficult to do. There really had been no one like he. And what net gain had the apostle gotten out of it? A compoundedly negative balance of demerit that he could never have undone!

The way he came to find that living was Christ (cf. Philippians 1:21) was by this discovery that anything else in life was loss without Christ (Philippians 3:7). It’s a sobering reminder that we really haven’t discovered the value of Who Christ is until we have learned the worthlessness of everything that we are apart from Him.

Have you discovered that, dear reader? Are you willing to renounce all your spiritual and moral achievements as worthless in order to embrace Christ Himself as your only worthlessness? Or perhaps you are a believer who has forgotten this, and it’s time to tally your losses back up (or down, as it were).

What status or work of yours are you tempted to feel makes you worthy before God or men?

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH508 “Jesus, Priceless Treasure”

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Jesus, the Name by Which the Only Saving God Has Made Himself Known (2021.05.26 Prayer Meeting Lesson in Psalm 18:31–50)

There is only one God Who can strengthen, because only one God exists. And we are strengthened by Him not by development of our own strength but by dependence upon His—a strength and salvation that can only be had in the Lord Jesus Christ.

2021.05.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 18:35–43

Read Luke 18:35–43

Questions from the Scripture text: Near to where was Jesus coming (Luke 18:35)? Who was doing what there? What did this man hear and inquire about (Luke 18:36)? What did they tell him (Luke 18:37)? So what did the man do (Luke 18:38)? But what did he call Jesus? And for what did he ask? Who told him to do what in Luke 18:39? But how did the man respond? And what does he call Jesus now? How, now, does Jesus Himself respond (Luke 18:40)? What does He command? What does He ask (Luke 18:41)? What does the man answer? Now what does Jesus command (Luke 18:42)? Why? What happens, and when (Luke 18:43)? Where does the man go? What does the man do? Who see it? And what do they do?

Here at last is a man who knows that He is utterly needy. 

He’s not a Pharisee who is impressed with how much better grace has made him than everyone else (cf. Luke 18:9-14). He’s not an important disciple who thinks he obviously has more right to Jesus than infants (cf. Luke 18:15-17). He’s not a ruler who is pretty sure that his earthly riches just mirror his moral riches (cf. Luke 18:18-27). He’s not even Peter, who is impressed that the disciples have done what the rich young ruler couldn’t (cf. Luke 18:28-30).

He’s a blind man (Luke 18:35). He’s a beggar (verse 35). And he desperately needs not just desserts but undeserved mercy (Luke 18:38Luke 18:39). He is “the sinner” (cf. Luke 18:13), who knows that if he’s going to come to Jesus or enter the kingdom, it’ll have to be by the effort of Another (cf. Luke 18:15a, Luke 18:17). 

This blind man can see rightly not only himself but also Jesus. He has more confidence than the crowd does that Jesus is the sort Who will care to hear and heed him (Luke 18:39a). And this is in part because he already sees Jesus as that Son of David (Luke 18:38Luke 18:39b) Who would make the blind to see (cf. Luke 7:22, Isaiah 35:5–6). If you’re a believing blind man, this is probably a favorite Messianic passage. And he pleads to be exhibit A of Jesus’s Messianic qualifications. 

Jesus, therefore, doesn’t just heal him. He literally commands him to receive his sight (Luke 18:42a), on the basis of the fact that his faith has already saved him (verse 42b, lit.). Now, we won’t always have our most pressing earthly trouble removed upon being saved. Indeed, the believer will always continue in many ways to be needy, and ought always to go by the blind beggar’s creed, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

At bottom, a believer is someone who sees both himself and Jesus with the clarity of this blind man.

When do you usually see your neediness? When/how could you be seeing it more? When do you usually see Christ’s abundance for that need? When/how could you be seeing it more?

Suggested Songs: ARP16A “Keep Me, O God” or TPH508 “Jesus, Priceless Treasure”

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

2021.05.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Samuel 13:23–39

Read 2 Samuel 13:23–39

Questions from the Scripture text: How much time passes between 2 Samuel 13:22 and 2 Samuel 13:23? What celebratory event is Absalom enjoying? Where? Whom does he invite? With whom, specifically, does this inviting begin (2 Samuel 13:24)? What does David reply, and how does that interaction proceed/conclude (2 Samuel 13:25)? For whom does Absalom specifically ask (2 Samuel 13:26)? What does David wonder? But what does Absalom do (2 Samuel 13:27)? And how does David respond? Whom did Abasalom command to watch whom for what (2 Samuel 13:28)? Then what were they to do? How does he reinforce this? What do the servants do (2 Samuel 13:29)? How do the rest of the king’s sons respond? What news arrives ahead of them (2 Samuel 13:30)? About how many of his sons? How was the completeness emphasized to him? What does the king do (2 Samuel 13:31)? Who else does this? Who speaks up in 2 Samuel 13:32? Whom had he previously advised (cf. 2 Samuel 13:3-5)? Whom else has he apparently been advising (verse 32b)? How does he reconcile David to the extent of his loss (2 Samuel 13:32-33)? How does he reconcile the king to the appropriateness of his loss? What has Absalom done by now (2 Samuel 13:34)? Which young man in verse 34 sees what? Now whom is Jonadab advising (2 Samuel 13:332 Samuel 13:35)? Who arrive in 2 Samuel 13:36? And who, all, do what in verse 36? But where has Absalom gone (2 Samuel 13:37, cf. 2 Samuel 3:3)? What is David’s response, how often? For how long was Absalom there (2 Samuel 13:38)? And what continued this whole time (2 Samuel 13:39, cf. 2 Samuel 13:37)? About whom did David have comfort?

The Lord’s Word is true. David’s punishment has risen from his own house (cf. 2 Samuel 12:10–11), and it has corresponded to his own sin. In the first half of this chapter, lustful sin from one of his sons mirrored his lustful sin with Bathsheba. 

Now, in the passage currently before us, Absalom’s coldly calculated elimination of Amnon mirrors David’s coldly calculated elimination of Uriah. We can even hear the echoes of the 2 Samuel 12:25 encouragement to Joab in Absalom’s own encouragements to his servants in 2 Samuel 13:28. One coldly calculated murder by another’s hand has been punished with another.

We can see a couple other features of God’s judgment against David here. The Lord is permitting the clever scoundrel Jonadab to wreak havoc. He had helped Amnon get what his lustful flesh wanted (2 Samuel 13:5), and now he has helped Absalom get what his murderous flesh wanted (which is how he has the inside info in 2 Samuel 13:32), and even helps David indulge his own lazy and self-pitying flesh (2 Samuel 13:332 Samuel 13:352 Samuel 13:39).

This last might need a little more explaining. David’s inordinate longing for Absalom, every day, for three years, is an indicator that he didn’t want to punish Absalom now any more than he wanted to punish Amnon in 2 Samuel 13:21. He may be upset at what Absalom has done, but he’d really like to find some way to just get his son back to normal; Amnon, after all, can’t be brought back (2 Samuel 13:39). 

An obviously clever fellow like Jonadab almost certainly perceived David’s heart about these things and positioned himself perfectly to be the only one not joining the mourning party in 2 Samuel 13:31-32. There are conspiracies of clever men; that’s a reality. But we should remember that the Lord can easily confound them. When he gives us over to them, that’s a providence that’s consistent with being under His chastening hand.

Finally, it’s another feature of God’s judgment against David that he is still being irresponsible as king. Absalom has run home to his maternal grandpa (2 Samuel 13:37-38, cf. 2 Samuel 3:3), but David longs to go to him (2 Samuel 13:39). Just as with Amnon, there doesn’t seem to be any thought of meting out justice, which is a king’s responsibility to do. This too is grimly appropriate. For, it had been the king’s responsibility to go to battle in the spring of the year (cf. 2 Samuel 11:1), and slacking in his duty was a big part of how David ended up under judgment in the first place (cf. 2 Samuel 11:2).

There’s often an appropriate symmetry in the providence of God. Let us look to Him to strengthen us by His Spirit for the killing of unchecked lust, or coldly calculated murderousness, or unprincipled cleverness, or self-indulgent irresponsibility. 

When have you suffered a consequence that was appropriate to your sin? How can you use this as a reminder to help against future sin?

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH464 “The Beatitudes”

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Rejoicing in Christ Is the Beginning, Middle, and End of Anything Genuinely Christian (2021.05.23 Evening Sermon in Philippians 3:1–3)

Though there are also good examples, we may be endangered by bad examples of so-called Christianity. And the best way to identify them is their rejoicing in themselves instead of in Christ.

Awakened to Mourn the Loss of Public Worship (2021.05.23 Morning Sermon in Joel 1:4–8)

The Lord here awakens His people to mourning, because they have been happy enough without Him in His worship, but ought to have been mourning like a bereaved bride.

WCF 14.3.2b The Guaranteed Victory of Saving Faith (2021.05.23 Sabbath School in 1John 5:1–5)

Saving faith may be often and many ways assailed, and weakened, but gets the victory

2021.05.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Corinthians 3:17–4:7

Read 2 Corinthians 3:17–4:7

Questions from the Scripture text: To whom do we turn, when we turn to Lord (2 Corinthians 3:17)? And what does the Lord, the Spirit, give us? And what do we see, when our blindness is removed (2 Corinthians 3:18)? And what effect does this have upon us? What have Paul and his companions received for their ministry (2 Corinthians 4:1)? What do they not lose? What does he call the things that they have renounced in 2 Corinthians 4:2? In what do they refuse to walk? How do they refuse to handle the word of God? Instead, what do they do with the truth? To what aspect, then, of every man, do they commend themselves? In whose sight? What may happen to their gospel (2 Corinthians 4:3a)? But to whom would it be veiled (verse 3b)? What does 2 Corinthians 4:4 call the devil? What has he done to those who are perishing? What do they not do? What does this veil keep them from seeing? Who is Christ, according to 2 Corinthians 4:4? What, then, do Paul and his companions not preach (2 Corinthians 4:5)? What do they preach? How do they consider themselves? Who does the work (2 Corinthians 4:6)? What else has He done about 4000 years prior? In whom else has He already done this spiritual counterpart to that work? Where does He shine? What light does He give? In whose face is the knowledge of this glory received? By what kind of vessel is this treasure conveyed (2 Corinthians 4:7)? What does this show?

Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Prayer of Confession all come from 2 Corinthians 3:17–4:7, so that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

Here, the apostle explains why his ministry is not generally impressive to all. One might have (wrongly) expected that the ministry of an apostle would be impressive to anyone.

Paul’s ultimate response is that God alone is the impressiveness of the work, and those who are not impressed with Him are not going to find anything else to be impressed with in his ministry (2 Corinthians 4:7). This doesn’t bother him, because his ministry is not his idea or his pride. It as an assignment of God by the mercy of God. It may seem to be going poorly, but if it is of God, then there is no reason to lose heart!

Ironically, the apostle refers to superficially impressive ministry as “the hidden things of shame.” There is a way of handling the Word of God that looks impressive on the outside, but what you cannot see is that it is man-derived and man-dependent. But the apostles are not concerned with commending themselves to men’s admiration. They are concerned with commending themselves to men’s consciences. O that we would learn to see our life as an assignment from God and deal earnestly with others as those who will have to stand before Him!! How this might help us to stop living for their applause!

Will such a ministry have a hundred percent conversion rate? No and yes. In one sense, no. There are those who are perishing. And if the Lord has not atoned for them, and is not going to regenerate them, then what exactly are we supposed to be able to do about that? It is not just that they are unable to see God’s glory. It is also that they are not permitted. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says that God has set things up this way because He refuses to shine the light of the gospel upon them. 

But in another sense, yes. Such a ministry will have a hundred percent conversion rate. For, the Lord is all powerful. He spoke light itself into existence. And He can speak spiritual light into existence in the hearts. And He does, because in the case of His elect, He is determined to give them the light of the knowledge of His glory in the face of Jesus Christ! It is the Lord, the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17a) who frees sinners from their blindness (verse 3:17b) so that they may not only see the glory of the Lord in the first place (2 Corinthians 3:18a), but also grow in our sanctification until He has at last conformed us to His own glorious image (verse 3:18b)!

What kind of ministry should we look for in the church? Whom should we be looking to make it effective? With whom should we aim at being impressed? What aims and approaches are incompatible with this?

Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH465 “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”

Monday, May 24, 2021

2021.05.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Joel 1:4–12

Read Joel 1:4–12

Questions from the Scripture text: What four types of locust are mentioned in Joel 1:4? What are they doing?  Whom does He command to awake in Joel 1:5? To do what? Whom does He command to wail? Why? What has happened? How does He refer to the locusts in Joel 1:6? What does He say about their quality and quantity in verse 6b? To what does He compare them in verse 6b–c? What is the point about the threat being posed? What has the enemy done in Joel 1:7? Whose vine? Whose fig tree? How is the destruction to the fig tree described? What does He command them to do in Joel 1:8? Like whom? What has been cut off (Joel 1:9)? From where? Who mourns in verse 9? Who serve Whom? What five things combined to produce this complete judgment (Joel 1:10)? Whom does Joel 1:11 tell to be ashamed? Whom to wail? For what two things that have perished (verse 11c–d)? What has dried up (Joel 1:12)? What has withered (verse 12b)? What other kinds of trees? What has this resulted in withering away from whom? 

The disaster being declared here is one that the Lord has brought upon His own people, His own possession, His own worship. 

It’s as if the historians took their cues from the Israelites, who have to be commanded to awake (Joel 1:5a), commanded to wail (verse 5b), commanded to lament (Joel 1:8a), and commanded to be ashamed (Joel 1:11a). We have great difficulty placing the book historically, because as far as we know there is no historical record of this locust plague outside the book of Joel.

Often, we are dull to what is happening and need to be commanded to take it more seriously, to lament. And nothing is more lamentable than the cutting off of the worship of God. “Grain offering and drink offering” cut off from the house of Yahweh is a huge deal (Joel 1:9a–b), but apparently the only ones with the spiritual sensitivity to care were the priests who served actively in the offerings (verse 9c). 

It is Yahweh’s house and Yahweh’s worship. He emphasizes this by pointing out that the land is not Israel’s land so much as Yahweh’s land (Joel 1:6a). It’s not just that Israel has lost vines, but Israel itself is Yahweh’s vine (Joel 1:7a, cf. Isaiah 5). It’s not just that Israel has lost fig trees, but Israel itself is Yahweh’s fig tree (verse 7b, cf. Hosea 9:10).

But we are so dull of heart toward God that damage to the things of God does not properly affect us. So, the Lord is “bringing home the hurt” to all the people. By using locusts to eliminate the drink offerings, it wipes out the pleasure of the drunks and the self-indulgent (Joel 1:5), as well as the livelihood of the vinedressers (Joel 1:11b). By using locusts to eliminate the grain offerings, He wipes out the livelihood of the farmers (verse 11), including not only this basic sustenance for man and beast, but also all cash/trade crops (Joel 1:12), so that God Himself has robbed them of all earthly joy. The Lord is making them to feel that they have not had the spiritual joy needed to care when it is lost.

Do we lament for lost worship like a young bride, whose betrothed is snatched from her just before the wedding (Joel 1:8)? If not, may God the Spirit bless to us this passage so that His heart-sensitizing purposes toward the first recipients in their locust plague would come home to our own hearts as well.

When have you missed worship, and especially public worship? How deeply does it affect you to do so?

Suggested songs: ARP42A “As Pants the Deer” or TPH42C “As Thirsts the Hart”